Bet you were wondering what was happening with Dogfish and his crew, weren’t ya?
I knew you were.
Isn’t it a good thing it’s time for this chapter, then?
Big changes are afoot with Cusslernautics!
Did you know you can now get all five of the current Cassidy Chronicles novels in a single volume? Yup, Adam went and put them all together. And he added a novelette, The Martian Gambit, about the TFS Nike and what happened under Captain Rene Mikall, a story you can’t get anywhere else. And it’s all just $9.99 for the ebook! Go ahead, check it out. And if you want to put some artwork of Yours Truly up on your walls, click the other button and see what’s out there!
Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawa’ii
“That does it,” said Johnson, wiping the sweat from her forehead. “We’re ready to wrap this up.”
“Good job, Menace,” Dogfish said. The accident had shaken his team to their core; CusslerNautics was a small company, more like a family, and losing eighteen people was devastating. Some of them had worked for the company since coming out of school; Cliff West, in particular, had been well past his expected retirement but still refused to leave. Others, like Morgan Kelley, were just at the beginning of their careers.
They all stung.
After the initial investigation and consolation, he’d deliberately stayed away from the job site. It was his way of continuing to express confidence in his team. Now, with the work completed, he returned to bring everyone together.
“Where is everyone?”
“Belowdeck, in the engineering spaces.”
Menace shrugged. “It’s the largest open space aboard that’s still structurally sound.”
“Get them on deck, Menace. This should be in the sunshine, not in the dark.”
“You’re in charge.” In ten minutes the entire crew had reassembled on the foredeck, reclining against the nearly two-century-old steelwork and looking at Dogfish, who was standing on a box, under the forward turret.
“You have done wonders,” he began. “I would say you’ve done the impossible, but you know I won’t bullshit you.”
That provoked a ripple of laughter. Dogfish was still one of theirs, for all that he sat in the CEO office these days.
“I won’t bullshit you,” he repeated, and his people caught the change in his tone.
“Before this job, we were scrounging for work. We might be the best at what we do, but there isn’t much of what we do anymore. Most of what you do can be done by robots, remotely, cheaply.”
“They can’t fart in a wetsuit!” shouted a voice.
“No, Salty, they can’t. But they can do just about everything else, and that’s a problem.”
“You can fix it!” called another voice.
“That’s what I thought when Ms. Cassidy threw out Jill. I thought that I could walk into that office and the jobs would be there. Guess what? They aren’t.”
“What do you mean, Dogfish?” asked Gilligan.
“I mean that I’ve been informed that, as of the end of our work here, our company is going to be shut down.”
A loud murmur of protest swept over the deck.
“Now, Ms. Cassidy has talked to me about this, and she’s not just cutting you off. Anyone who wants to transfer into another Harriman company –”
“What’s a Harriman company?” said Double T.
“Any company that Ms. Cassidy or her wife own.”
“I thought their name was Cassidy? What’s Harriman about?”
“You want to know, Double T, you can look it up. The point is, there are jobs for anyone who wants one. It probably won’t be what you’re doing now, but she promised you won’t lose pay, retirement, benefits, none of it.”
He paused a moment to let that sink in.
“Or, if you want to move on, she’ll pay you severance. She’ll pay you three months’ for every year you’ve worked, lump sum, and she’ll also keep your benefits going until you hook on somewhere else.”
The pleased murmurs grew until he held up his hand again.
“There’s one more option, the one I’m taking.”
That silenced the crowd.
“Who knows why we’re doing this?”
There was a flurry of confused looks and whispered conferences before Gilligan said, “Does this have anything to do with that starship thing?”
“Sort of,” answered Dogfish. “Here’s the deal. This battleship is going to be renovated and turned into a spaceship.”
As he half-expected, the reaction to this was a mix of disbelief and shock.
“Seriously. No, Eyesight, I’m not joking, and don’t call me Shirley. That’s the plan. Renovate and launch. And what Ms. Cassidy’s offering, to anyone who stays on, is a chance to be part of the build.”
A chorus of, “I’m in!” rolled around the deck. He waited until it died down before he continued.
“And the crew.”
That silenced them again.
“What do you mean, crew?”
“I mean, we build it, we fly it. Oh, it’s not that simple; there’s going to be training on work in vacuum, the peculiarities of running the engines they’re going to put in, that sort of thing. And we don’t actually have enough bodies to fully crew her, so there’s going to be others from various places within something called Via ad Sidera. But we’re the backbone.”
“Why us?” asked Art.
“I asked that too. Ms. Cassidy said that there were a couple reasons. First, you guys are, right now, the experts on how this ship is put together.”
“Yeah, we’ve spent months taking her apart!”
“That’s exactly it. Before you guys, nobody’s really done anything with her since before our grandparents were born. We are it.”
“And the other reason?”
“We’re used to working under pressure, literally. Ms. Cassidy said that space isn’t much different from working in the deep blue. One tiny mistake will kill you, so you don’t make mistakes. She said that’s something so rare, it’s the toughest thing for them to find. So, us.”
“And then what?”
“What do you mean, Gilligan?”
She stood up. “I mean, what do we do after we get this beast in the air? Damn, that sounds weird. What are they going to do with it?”
“I’m afraid that’s something I can’t tell you,” Dogfish answered. “Not because I don’t want to, Gilligan. But if you don’t sign on, you can’t get the whole story. The only thing I will say is if, after you sign on and hear it all out, you decide you don’t want to be part of the ‘then what’, I’ve been told they have other jobs for you on the habitat, Njord.”
“Lay it straight for us, Dogfish,” Menace said. “You said you signed on to be crew on this?”
“Ms. Cassidy kinda promised me the Captaincy if I can hack it, but yeah. I’m in. So you can sign on to finish what we started here; you can stay in the organization but in a different sort of job; or you can leave and find a new company. Whatever you choose, I want you to know that I’ve never worked with a better pack of degenerates than you lot, and I’d buddy share a tank with any of you.”
“How long do we have to decide?”
“It’s Thursday. Work on the conversion begins Monday. Everyone has a long weekend, starting as soon as we’re done here. If you want in, show up, grab your gear, and get to work by nine. If you want to try something new, show up Monday and see Stephanie.”
“The VP of Human Resources. She’s flying in over the weekend and she’ll be here next week until everyone and everything is settled. If you want to move on, don’t show up. We’ll send you your severance.”
“That’s it. If you want to talk, I’ll be here for a while. Ms. Cassidy, no, not Ms. Cassidy, her wife, will be available to talk via hologram as well.”
He stepped down off the box and the group started to break up. As he expected, there were a few questions, but not many, and within a few minutes most of his crew had left. As he finished answering the last question, Double T walked up.
“Hey, hon,” he said, wrapping Dogfish up and giving him a kiss. “Nice speech.”
“Thanks,” Dogfish answered. “You did good on your prompt.”
“It’s the least I could do.”
“What do you think? What’s the tenor of the tribe?”
“Well, Rich, I don’t think you’re going to get more than, oh, every goddamn one of them.”
“You really think so?”
“I know so. Oh, some of them are worried, but they’re more worried about losing their family. And if their family’s heading to space, then so are they.”
Dogfish put his arm around Double T’s waist and they started walking. “Huh. Maybe the Admiral’s right.”
“The Admiral? Who’s that, and about what?”
“Kendra, Aiyana’s wife. You’d like her. Straight shooter and a dreamer all in one. Anyways, she’s always going on about ohana, it’s her idea of family. She’s even got this funny little medallion on her uniform that she says is the Ohana medal. Maybe there’s something to it after all.”
“You bet your ass there is. Now, what are we doing for this long weekend?”
“Well, Tarek, if you’re up for it…”
“Anything you’re up for, so am I,” he said with a twinkle.
“Good. We have a shuttle to catch, and then we’re going to the habitat. Maybe you’ll get to meet the Admiral if you’re good.”